USAID Mission Director’s Visit in Liberia Inspires Youth and Community Advocates 

Students sitting in a circle in a high school classroom in Bomi County, Liberia.

On February 14, 2024, USAID Liberia Mission Director Jim Wright visited Bomi Junior High and the Health Advocacy Committee at the Vincent Compound in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. Bomi Junior High was just one of the schools Breakthrough ACTION, USAID’s flagship social and behavior change project, is working with to improve adolescent health in Liberia. Director Wright’s visit allowed students and committee members alike to showcase their recent learnings and achievements, particularly new School Health Clubs and Advocacy Committees.

Visit to School Health Clubs

Established by Breakthrough ACTION in 2023 with USAID’s support, these clubs serve as a safe space for students to ask questions about sensitive health topics. They also provide opportunities for students to take ownership of their health and well-being. During club meetings, students in grades 7–9 learn and dialogue about important health topics such as teenage pregnancy, menstrual hygiene, family planning, self-esteem, confidence, and goal setting. Through such meetings, students develop leadership skills, teamwork, and a sense of responsibility toward improving their health.

During his visit, Director Wright commended the efforts of the students and teachers involved in their health club, emphasizing the need to extend the message about why people should take ownership their health, beyond school borders to families and communities. When asked by a club member, “Honorable Mission Director, do you have further questions for us on [club meeting] lessons?” Director Wright said, “No; you guys have acquired enough knowledge and need to let others in your family and communities benefit too.”

The Director’s acknowledgment of the students’ efforts boosted student morale. It also underscored how peer-to-peer education and investing in youth-led initiatives for sustainable development can lead to better health and lives for young people. The Director’s visit inspired both current and future school health club members and motivated students to continue making a positive impact on their schools and communities by promoting health awareness. Additionally, the visit fostered dialogue and collaboration between school leadership, the USAID visiting team, and other stakeholders.

Meeting with Health Advocacy Committees

USAID Liberia Mission Director posing for a photo with members of a health advocacy committee in Bomi County, Liberia.

USAID Liberia Mission Director Jim Wright visiting a health advocacy committee in Bomi County, Liberia. Photo by: Joseph Tailey Nuhon Chellah

After meeting with school health clubs, Director Wright visited a Health Advocacy Committee (HAC) in Bomi County. With USAID’s support, Breakthrough ACTION established HACs in 12 of Liberia’s counties starting in 2021 to identify and solve the most pressing community-level problems. Made up of influential community leaders, HACs are trained in SMART Advocacy approaches and work to understand local health challenges and co-develop homegrown solutions.

In Bomi County, the HAC shared its recent successes with Director Wright, including the rehabilitation of a hand pump that now provides safe drinking water to the community. The visit also enabled an open dialogue between the Director, HAC members, and community members. Following the exchange, Director Wright offered recommendations, noting, “The Health Advocacy Committee needs to scale up its advocacy at the policy level with the national government, and seek opportunity for research, partnership, and sustainability.”

Director Wright’s public acknowledgment validated the hard work of the organization’s volunteers, inspiring them to continue their efforts with renewed vigor. The Director’s visit to the HAC was not just symbolic; it was a concrete demonstration of commitment to grassroots development. By engaging directly with beneficiaries and stakeholders, fostering dialogue, showcasing impact, and offering recommendations, such visits play a vital role in advancing USAID’s mission of promoting prosperity and stability worldwide.

Written by: G. Archie Sesay, Deputy Chief of Party, Breakthrough ACTION Liberia